Zakharova and Shoigu comment on the US’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Maria Zakharova have both publicly spoken about the US’s plans to deploy precision strike conventional missiles in the Pacific under the Pacific Deterrence Initiative(PDI).
Zakharova insists that the move will have destabilising consequences for the security picture in the region and internationally. She also said that the PDI may provoke an arms race and will definitely result in a response from Russia’s side if additional missile threats to its territory emerge.
In an interview, Sergei Shoigu warns that the US shouldn’t place new precision strike missiles in Europe, Japan and the Republic of Korea under the Pacific or European Deterrence Initiatives. He confirmed that Russia had not deployed similar weaponry of its own, but if the US goes ahead with their plans, then Russia will be forced to respond appropriately. He also spoke of the everyday operational and tactical engagement between Russian and US “civilian airspace managers and airborne counterterrorism operations” in Syria.
Former Japanese Diplomat Akio Kawato writes a hawkish Oped
A former Japanese diplomat Akio Kawato has aired his views in an opinion piece published in Newsweek Japan. The article suggests that Japan can demonstrate a position of strength by blocking the Tsugaru and Soya straits. He also suggested that Japan bide its time until Russian state power once again shrinks like the desolate period in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This suggested blockade has the potential to cut off the Russian mainland from the four southernmost Kuril Islands, threaten the seaborne logistics of the Russian far east and potentially deny the Russian Navy safe access to their bastion in the Sea of Okhotsk when transiting from the Pacific.
The article did get a response from the Russian parliament(Duma)’s International relations committee’s first deputy chair Dimitry Novikov. The Russian communist party’s deputy to the Duma, Mr Novikov, commented that the Japanese politicians are looking to exacerbate the dispute over the Kuril Islands with such comments.
Interestingly, another editorial in Japan-Forward advocating for Japan to adopt a new policy of involving the international community to regain the Kurils got a response from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
The editorial used the analogy of the Kremlin luring Japan over the prospect of returning the islands, like the “aroma of grilled eel” and coercing economic cooperation out of Japan without actually “handing over anything”.
Mr Peskov cautions that the editorial represents an extremist view, and such statements shouldn’t be read or given much credence. Peskov adds that every country has elements advocating such extremist approaches, which have the potential to derail constructive bi-lateral initiatives.
Military Hardware in Russian Far East and Kurils
The Government of Japan’s Ministry of Defence released an updated SlideDoc with details on all the deployed Russian military forces in Japan’s vicinity.
It is important to note that Russia has recently deployed several air defence systems on its eastern border, including an S400 on Sakhalin and an S300V4 on the Kurils. Russia has also recently conducted military drills involving thousands of troops, armour and helicopters.
In the wake of North Korea’s latest launch of two short-range ballistic missiles that harmlessly fell into the sea, the Russian Ministry of Defence’s press service also quoted Sergei Shoigu. The communiqué confirmed the above-mentioned S300V4 and S400 deployments as well as MiG 31BM high-altitude interceptor fighter aircraft deployed in the Chukotka region of the Russian Far East. The MiG 31BM has limited missile interception capability; it was envisioned to fulfil an interception role against cruise missiles.
Russian Ambassador to Japan on Military Exercises and Vaccine
The Russian ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galuzin, has commented that the latest military exercises conducted on the Kurils aren’t directed at Japan. He clarified that the drills are aimed at maintaining defensive capabilities with a focus on US forces in the region, including those stationed in Japan.
Ambassador Galuzin has previously said during a TV interview that Moscow is ready to supply Japan with its now proven to be effective and safe Sputnik-V COVID19 vaccine. He added that the Russian side even wants to transfer the technology and see the vaccine produced in Japan. Sadly Japan has not been warm to the prospect of approving Sputnik-V. Former Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama also opined on social media that the incumbent PM Suga led government should accept the Russian vaccine and save as many Japanese lives as possible.
As Japan and Russia simultaneously spar over the Kuril Islands and look for opportunities for cooperation, this journal will attempt to chronicle their important relationship over the next few months.
The views expressed above are the author’s own and do not represent the Takshashila Institution’s recommendations.